This post appeared first in The Finger Lakes Times as an installment in the series, “Denim Spirit.”
Two of my sisters married women and I had the privilege to perform both ceremonies. This is a little confusing so read carefully. I have a sister who lives in Lexington, Kentucky and she was married in Maine. I have another sister who lives in North Carolina and she was married just last week, in Lexington. The story breaks down this way.
Nearly six years ago now, my Kentucky sister had been living with her partner for many years. Maine had just legalized same-sex marriage and so we all gathered at my brother’s house, on his deck overlooking the magnificent Kennebec River. It was a beautiful day with eagles soaring above while below we prayed, lovers exchanged vows, and we all celebrated. Astonishingly, within a year even the state of Kentucky was performing same-sex marriages.
When my North Carolina sister decided to wed her partner, she gathered us in Lexington on the same weekend my three sisters had been gathering for years to attend the races at Keeneland racecourse. That explains why North Carolina got married in Lexington last week, but it is not particularly relevant to the main thing I want to point to.
Long before same-sex marriage became legal, about twenty-five years ago, I performed a same-sex blessing using the Episcopal wedding liturgy. It was in private – the couple, one witness, and me. One member of the lesbian couple taught at The United States Military Academy at West Point and so privacy was crucial.
That hushed moment standing before two women a quarter century ago flooded my memory on the occasion of the first legal same-sex wedding I performed in New York. The memory also flooded my eyes. On that occasion, standing before me were two men, faces beaming and bright, and we were surrounded by a large and gregarious crowd cheering the first legal wedding most of us had witnessed. Between the forced privacy of that illegal (even in the church) blessing, and the irrepressible joy twenty-five years later of that legal wedding, is held a precious wisdom.
Never in those twenty-five years had my imagination dared to seriously imagine what seemed to be an overnight legal and cultural transformation.
The speed at which same-sex marriage became legal was likely a result of progressive attitudes bleeding into all avenues of media and entertainment for many years. What broke the dam however, was GenX and Millennials. The majority of conservative young Evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics already stood at odds with the religious teachings of their institutions, and it was their attitudes that helped to influence older generations. Once fear begins to melt, prejudice softens.
All of that gives me hope in our present moment of discontent.
Knowing that my sister lives in relative safety even in Kentucky, held within a large lesbian community and embraced by her strong church network composed of mostly heterosexuals, inspires my imagination. The current assault on the environment, rude and hate-seething tweets, and the offensive against a free press will all one day evaporate – or at least return to the corner as a small, snarling, minority. Gathering in the backyard of my Lexington sister’s house, wedding my North Carolina sister on a cool but sunny evening, reminds me to never stop hoping and never stop advocating either.